The Ravens were able to keep one of their own off the free-agent market without having to re-sign him.
Because Dale Carter was placed on the non-football illness list before the regular season, the veteran nickel back was recently notified he still remains under contract with the Ravens.
It was previously believed - even by Carter himself - he would be an unrestricted free agent, but team officials informed Carter his one-year contract transfers to 2005 because he did not play in 2004.
"I know he's a year older, but he's a year healthier and he had a year off basically," coach Brian Billick said. "Based on what we saw before - and we have no reason to believe that he would come back with any less abilities - he's very much an option for us."
Carter's agent, Mitch Frankel, did not return phone calls yesterday.
Carter, 35, was deactivated just before training camp at the end of July, when a potential life-threatening blood clot was discovered in his lungs. He had to take blood thinners for the next six months, the main reason he could not play last season.
His illness prompted the Ravens to lure Deion Sanders out of retirement just 11 days before the season opener. Carter had previously beaten out Corey Fuller for the nickel back job (the fifth defensive back) in minicamps.
"It's our understanding from the doctors that the illness that he had does not put him at any additional risk," Billick said. "So, right now, there's no obstacles physically for him to come back and join us next year."
Billick said the team likely won't know for another couple of months whether its other nickel back plans to come back.
Considered one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history, Sanders ended his three-year retirement and joined the Ravens last season in a limited role.
He finished second on the Ravens with three interceptions and broke up four other passes. Because of injuries, he only played and finished seven of 16 games.
"When he left, he was very encouraging and upbeat about the potential of coming back," Billick said. "But, clearly, it's going to take a portion of the offseason for him to really determine what he wants to do."
If Sanders, who will turn 38 by the start of the regular season, decides to play, the Ravens would have higher expectations for him.
"I'm very optimistic that this is going to work and he can contribute to us," Billick said. "Particularly with the concept that he would have an entire offseason and training camp to gear up, that could make a substantial difference in terms of what he could play and how many games he could play next year."
Along with Sanders, the Ravens' other 12 free agents, who will be able to sign with other teams beginning Wednesday, are: cornerback Gary Baxter; linebackers Ed Hartwell and T.J. Slaughter; defensive end Marques Douglas; center Casey Rabach; receivers Kevin Johnson and Travis Taylor; guard Bennie Anderson; long snapper Joe Maese; kickoff specialist Wade Richey; quarterback Kordell Stewart; and running back Jamel White.